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Thread: PhD Economics or Public Policy Profile Eval

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    PhD Economics or Public Policy Profile Eval

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    Hi Everyone,

    I'm hoping someone can give my profile a quick look over and let me know how competitive I'd be for PhD Economics or Public Policy admissions. Please let me know what you think:

    All at Arizona State University (has pretty highly ranked MPP)

    Undergrad: BA Economics (3.85 GPA), minor Political Science

    Economics: Macro Principles (A), Micro Principles (A), Intermediate Micro (A), Immigration & Econ (A+), Intermediate Macro (A), Money & Banking (A+), Labor Economics (A), Game Theory (B), Econometrics (A+), Capstone (A+), International Economics (A)
    Math: Calc 1 (A), Calc 2 (C), Statistics (A), Calc 3 (B), Proofs (A-), Linear Algebra (B+), Real Analysis (B+), Differential Equations (A)

    Grad (Master of Public Policy): GPA 3.97

    Public Service Research I (basically applied econometrics) (A), Microecon of Public Policy I (A+), Public Service Research II (A+), Program Evaluation (A+), Public Policy Analysis (A), Microecon of Public Policy II (B), Applied Econometrics (A-), Public Budgeting and Finance (A), Advanced Policy Analysis (A), Capstone (A)

    GRE:
    165 Q, 160 V, 4 AW


    My letter of recommendations would come from professors in the School of Public Affairs, not the Econ department (although I could probably get one if I really tried from the Econ department, but it probably wouldn't be as good as my MPP recommenders). I could also get one from a research fellowship I am currently doing at George Mason University in Political Economy.

    I have a paper published in a lower-tier Public Policy journal of which I am the sole author and will have some experience with research with my fellowship at George Mason.

    What tier of Econ schools do you think I could get into? Would I be better off trying for a top-tier Public Policy school, or is my profile not even suited for that? I'm definitely interested in Political Economy, Public Choice, Behavioral Economics, and Macro, as well as the applied side of Econ that Public Policy brings.

    I should also mention I have 2 years of work experience, some research experience at a think tank and 1.5 years in state government as an Analyst.
    Last edited by dloverstreet; 08-30-2019 at 09:20 PM.

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    Re: PhD Economics or Public Policy Profile Eval

    I think others can give you advice in terms of placement as I'm still an undergraduate and haven't gone through the process yet. However, from reading your profile and looking at your interests (esp. public choice and political economy), I don't know how happy you'd be in a mainstream economics program. I'd look at programs that have an Austrian economics focus; those have a strong crossover with public policy and political theory. George Mason, West Virginia, Clemson Economics programs come to mind. I'm not really familiar with Public Policy programs so I'll leave that to another to answer.

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    Re: PhD Economics or Public Policy Profile Eval

    Yeah Ive definitely looked into that because I agree, Im definitely more interested in Political Economy and how economics and politics interact. George Mason is one school I am going to apply to, but Im wondering how competitive Id be with my profile for schools ranked higher than George Mason.

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    Re: PhD Economics or Public Policy Profile Eval

    For top ranked programs, without a letter from a well-known economist, you may get filtered out because of the C in Calc II and the B's in the other math grades. Your quant GRE score is also on the margin for top 20 schools. Retaking the GRE one more time might have higher returns for your profile, because a higher score will help alleviate concerns over your math ability.

    Regarding how this impacts your chances at lower ranked school I am not sure. I do know however that almost all credible programs care a lot about your perceived ability to pass the first year, and math grades matter a lot for that perception. Also, a master's in public policy will probably not count for much, and might even count against you at higher ranked programs.

    You seem better suited (as you mentioned) for a public policy PhD. These PhD's, while different, offer some advantages over econ PhD especially for those interested in government work. I would check out the public policy programs at well-known schools as well as Pardee RAND Graduate School, which offers a PhD in public policy. This PhD program seems to give more credit to people with work experience, and they will also surely count your masters for you rather than against you. They finally have very good job placement in the government and think tank world. They have a pre-application where they will rate your chances of admission up-front which is very helpful.

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    Re: PhD Economics or Public Policy Profile Eval

    When you say screened out of top schools without a recommendation from a top economist, you mean screened out of Economics programs, correct? I have looked into RANDs program as well and it looks appealing, but I think a Public Policy degree from a well-known school would carry me a little further than their program.

    Based on some of the criteria they list on their website, Public Policy schools like Chicago or even Harvard require less math than for Econ. Do you have any idea how Id match up with applicants to those schools for the PhD in Public Policy?

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    Re: PhD Economics or Public Policy Profile Eval

    Quote Originally Posted by dloverstreet View Post
    When you say screened out of top schools without a recommendation from a top economist, you mean screened out of Economics programs, correct? I have looked into RANDs program as well and it looks appealing, but I think a Public Policy degree from a well-known school would carry me a little further than their program.

    Based on some of the criteria they list on their website, Public Policy schools like Chicago or even Harvard require less math than for Econ. Do you have any idea how Id match up with applicants to those schools for the PhD in Public Policy?
    PPol programmes might, in principle, require less math from applicants, but given that people who are interested in applied micro also tend to apply to PPol programmes, you'll be competing with them as well. So the lesser math requirement is moot.

    You should speak to your letter writers and form a realistic list of schools to apply to, judging from the success of previous applicants from your school. If there aren't any/many that did a PPol PhD, you can, at least, use Econ PhD placement as a proxy. All in all, regardless of the programme you're aiming for (PPol or Econ), admission into the top schools is really competitive, so meeting the minimum requirement is only necessary, not sufficient for gaining admission.

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    Re: PhD Economics or Public Policy Profile Eval

    Quote Originally Posted by dloverstreet View Post
    When you say screened out of top schools without a recommendation from a top economist, you mean screened out of Economics programs, correct? I have looked into RANDs program as well and it looks appealing, but I think a Public Policy degree from a well-known school would carry me a little further than their program.

    Based on some of the criteria they list on their website, Public Policy schools like Chicago or even Harvard require less math than for Econ. Do you have any idea how Id match up with applicants to those schools for the PhD in Public Policy?
    When I wrote my reply, I was thinking about econ programs. However, I do agree with tutonic that applied micro people do tend to apply to both top public policy programs as well as econ programs (I am one of those people who did that during my application season). The implication being that as you go up the rankings to the top 5 public policy programs, you get an applicant pool that is much closer to that of a top econ department (or, more specifically, the empirical/applied micro portion of an econ PhD applicant pool). But I would guess that farther down the public policy PhD rankings you get a much different applicant pool, where you might have a better chance. The thing for you to consider is if these schools that are further down the ranking will get you to where you want to be career or goal-wise.

    Regarding the RAND program: It is worse for academic placement but might be fine (maybe even better) in some circumstances for industry focused people. I read a lot about it and went to a big pre-admissions event for them, interviewed with an alum, did the pre-application and applied. You can pm me if you want more details, but here is a brief summary of what I know. Based on the literature I read while at the event, they have a strong record of placing people in government agencies and private companies. Jobs that people call "industry" in the econ world. Many of the job titles did in fact include "economist." There were not a lot of people placed into academia, and indeed, most people going in know they do not want an academic job. The program also can be finished much quicker than a typical econ PhD, with a good chunk doing it in 4 years and some even in 3 (but this is rare). The applicant pool has a much lower typical GRE score than top econ PhDs. This is verbatim from the pre-applicaiton information they sent me: "More precisely, the quantitative GRE scores for the middle 50 percent of the last entering class ranged from 158 to 166." The pool is also composed of many people who have prior work experience outside academia. They also seems to care much more about prior work experience, unlike econ PhD programs.

    Regarding your final question: I think your main problem in general are some of those math grades. You have taken enough math for an econ or public policy PhD, but you unfortunately scored lower than most competitive applicants applying to top schools. This is perhaps mitigated for the public policy PhDs by your master's, so as tutonic said your best assessment will come from your program faculty.

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    Re: PhD Economics or Public Policy Profile Eval

    Hey guys,

    Thanks for the responses, they have really helped me with trying to determine when and where to apply. Do any of you know much about Arizona State's PhD in Public Admin and Policy? According to U.S. News, it looks to be ranked pretty well, #14 in Public Affairs. Obviously its no Harvard, but I've heard good things. I've talked with a few professors from the school, but want to hear an outside opinion as well.

    From doing my MPP there, I know we are known for Urban Policy and Emergency Management, as well as a few other areas. But what is the view of PhD's graduating from the program? Placements don't seem too bad, with many going to Political Science departments and other Public Policy schools.

    Anyone have any knowledge of the program?

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    Re: PhD Economics or Public Policy Profile Eval

    In case it wasn't clear, when Public Policy PhD programmes are mentioned in this forum, they only refer to programmes that have economics as a concentration. Not all public policy programmes have this feature, and the usnews ranking for PPol isn't the best source for rankings in PPol.

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